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Using Math Talk to Help Students Learn

Why do it?
Students are aided by hearing what their peers think.
Putting thoughts into words pushes students to clarify their thinking.
Teachers can spot misconceptions easier and immediately address confusion by asking a
question or stopping the process immediately to address what the students dont
Builds students confidence about their ability to engage in an intellectual discussion.
Will eventually lead to students to do well in advanced high school or college level
courses where students are expected to feel at home with scientific and logical

5 Talk Moves
Math Discussion: Whether numbers are even or odd. Class has decided that if you can divide a number by 2 evenly, then it is an even number. Student is tackling 24.

Name of Talk Move


Example Dialogue

1. Revoicing- (So you are


The teacher tries to repeat some or all of what the student said,
and then asks the student to respond and verify whether or not
the teachers revoicing is correct.
Helpful when you understand what the student has said, but you
arent sure if the other students understand.
The teacher can also extend the talk move to students by asking
one student to repeat or rephrase what another student has said
and then immediately following up with the first student.
Benefits: Gives the rest of the class to hear another version of
the first students contribution. It gives more time to process
Philipes statement, and adds to the likelihood that they will
follow the conversation and understand his point. Students will
come to realize that others are listening to what they say and
will make efforts to make their contributions comprehensible.
After a student makes a claim, and the teacher has made sure
that students have heard it and have had time to process it, she
can move on to elicit student reasoning about the claim. Teacher
refrains from supporting one or the other position.

Philipe: Well, if we could use 3, then it could go into that, but 3 is odd.
So then if it was but three is even. I mean odd, then its not even.
Teacher: Ok, let me see if I understand. So youre saying that 24 is an
odd number?
Philipe: Yeah. Because three goes into it, because 24 divided by 3 is 8.
Teacher: Can anyone repeat what Philipe just said in his or her own
words? Miranda?
Miranda: I think I can. I think he said that 24 is odd, because it can be
divided by 3.
Teacher: Is that right, Philipe? Is that what you said?
Philipe: Yes.

2. Asking students to
restate someone elses
reasoning- (Can you
repeat what he just said
in your own words?)

3. Asking students to
apply their own reasoning
to someone elses
reasoning. (Do you
agree or disagree and
4. Prompting students for
further participation.
(Would someone like to
add on?)

5. Using wait time.

(Take your timewell

Teacher increases participation in the discussion by using

revoicing as a way to clarify the two positions that have
emerged. Then she invites others to contribute by prompting
them to either state agreement or disagreement or to add other

Recommended wait time after a question is asked is 10 seconds.

Even after a student has been called on they should be given
time to organize thoughts. If we dont use wait time
consistently and patiently, students give up and fail to
participate, knowing that they cant beat the clock.

Teacher: Miranda, do you agree or disagree with what Phillipe said?

Miranda: Well, I sort of like, I disagree?
Teacher: Can you tell us why you disagree with what he said? Whats
your reasoning?
Miranda: Because I thought we said yesterday that you could divide
even numbers by 2. And its 12. So isnt that even?
Teacher: So we have two different ideas here about the number 24.
Philipe, youre saying that 24 is odd because you can divide it by 3?
Philipe: Uh-huh.
Teacher: And Miranda, youre saying that its even because you can
divide it by 2? Is that correct?
Miranda: Yes.
Teacher: Ok, so what about other people? Who would like to add to
this discussion? Do you agree or disagree with Mirandas or Philipes
ideas? Tell us what you think, or add on other comments or insights.
After 45 seconds of wait time, the teacher calls on Eduardo.
Eduardo: Yes, I agree with Mirandas idea, because the only way you
told us to find out if something is even is to divide by 2. And if we
divide 24 by three, we can also divide it by 4. And we can divide it by
6, too. So I think we should stick with 2 only.

Source: Classroom Discussions: Using Math Talk to Help Students Learn by Suzanne H. Chapin, Catherine OConner and Nancy
Canavan Anderson, CA: Math Solutions Publications, 2003